Hawkers’ Plight: TISG will hold the line


We stand up for the little guy and walking away by not addressing the plight of our hawkers is a disservice to our society.

It is in times like these that we often ask ourselves: why do we do, what we do?

We are the fourth estate and want to give voice to the man on the street. We have in our pages on theindependent.sg many stories that our state-run media has turned a blind-eye to. We are driven by our mission to hold those in power accountable, for their excesses and it serves as a platform for whistle blowers.

Let the 20th of November go down in our history books as the day when NTUC Foodfare, an organisation that bears the name of our trade union, was after the independent media for standing up for worker rights.

Obviously, apologising to NTUC Foodfare is the easy way out – we come out with no financial losses and all we have to do is to put up an apology and take down the two articles in question. It would be the best decision to take financially.

But TISG is not driven by profits. What motivates us most is “to put the pen back in the hands of the journalist.” To cover stories like these where people are suffering alone on their own, to give voice to the voiceless.

The two articles in question are based on facts and we do have material evidence to back it up, to corroborate what we have written. We are however curious that NTUC Foodfare’s public statements are somewhat contrary to our findings.

We have written to the lawyers, David Lim & Partners querying them on their NTUC FoodFare’s media statement and demand letter.

There are larger issues at hand here and in public interest we feel that the articles should remain published until and otherwise it is proven to be false and baseless by NTUC Foodfare. Below are some further questions we have about NTUC Foodfare:

  1. Should an arm of a trade union conduct businesses like Foodfare? Isn’t there an inherent conflict of interest here?
  2. When it comes to a small business operator vs the commercial arm of the trade union, what leverage does a small operator have in terms of negotiating a fair contract?
  3. Has NTUC Foodfare been fair and has it taken into the consideration of the plight of small business operators/hawkers in meeting out penalties?
  4. What are their polices in terms of ensuring that the welfare of workers, not just stallholders are adhered to during festive periods when a lot of staff go on holidays?
  5. Don’t public holidays apply to small business operators?

This is a clear example of how tripartism in Singapore has failed. There is an inherent limitation in this model. Clearly, trade unions should stay out of businesses.

We can’t go wrong for standing up for what is right. In the hawkers’ plight, we feel the pain of all those who have toiled hours in front of a hot stove so that we can have affordable meals in Singapore. We cannot and will not be cowed by the powers that be. TISG will hold the line in championing the rights of our hawkers, workers and downtrodden.

Kumaran Pillai